OSHA PPE Healthcare: Gloves
Gloves are the most common type of PPE used in a healthcare settings. Most patient care activities require the use of a single pair of nonsterile gloves made of either latex, nitrile, or vinyl. However, because of allergy concerns, some facilities have eliminated or limited latex products, including gloves, and now use gloves made of nitrile or other material. Vinyl gloves are also frequently available and work well if there is limited patient contact. However, some gloves do not provide a snug fit on the hand, especially around the wrist, and therefore should not be used if extensive contact is likely.
Gloves should fit the user’s hands comfortably – they should not be too loose or too tight. They also should not tear or damage easily.
Other types of gloves include sterile surgical gloves and heavy duty gloves. Sterile surgical gloves are worn by other healthcare personnel who perform invasive patient procedures. Environmental services personnel often wear reusable heavy duty gloves made of latex or nitrile to work with caustic disinfectants when cleaning environmental surfaces.
If they become contaminated, gloves can become a means for spreading infectious materials to patients, employees, visitors, or environmental services. Therefore, employees who wear gloves should exercise safety measures that include:
◈ Working “from clean to dirty.” This is a basic principle of infection control, under which an employee touches clean body sites or surfaces before touching dirty or heavily contaminated areas.
◈ Limiting opportunities for touch contamination, by avoiding rubbing the nose or face with gloves that have been in contact with a patient, and by avoiding unnecessary touching of environmental surfaces with contaminated gloves. Surfaces such as light switches, and door and cabinet knobs can become contaminated if touched by soiled gloves.
◈ Changing gloves as needed. If gloves become torn or heavily soiled and additional patient care tasks must be performed, gloves must be changed before starting the task. Gloves should